In only 48 hours, Las Vegas is finally going to take one player from every team.
Only, they won’t be taking the best players available.
And they’ll be better off, too.
For months, Golden Knights GM George McPhee has been making side deals with teams.
When the protected lists dropped yesterday, McPhee already knew them inside and out.
He’s the most powerful man in the hockey world right now.
Picking strictly through the expansion draft, Vegas won’t have a good team.
McPhee knows that damn well.
Where he is going to make or break his team is in the side deals.
We’ll let the analysts call them “side deals”.
Truthfully, they’re just bribes.
For example, my Pittsburgh Penguins.
When Bryan Rust showed up on the exposed list, Penguins fans lost their minds.
Bryan Rust isn’t going to Las Vegas.
If there wasn’t some type of deal in place, Rutherford wouldn’t have left him exposed.
The Vegas Golden Knights are going to take Marc-Andre Fleury.
Not because they want to, but because the Penguins are going to make it worth their while.
Asked Jim Rutherford if he was concerned about losing a player like Bryan Rust in expansion draft: "Not based on what I know today."
— Sam Werner (@SWernerPG) June 18, 2017
Vegas might have every intention of taking Fleury in the first place.
But why would McPhee show his hand?
Rutherford: “Hey, George who looks good on our roster to you?”
McPhee: “Hmm, I’m not sure, Jim.”
Rutherford: “How about if Marc-Andre Fleury comes with a first round pick?”
The Penguins don’t want to lose any of their young forwards.
The Penguins need to shed Marc-Andre Fleury’s cap hit in order to bolster their blue line.
They are one team that can pay to use the expansion draft to their advantage.
I’m not saying this is actually the deal that is going to transpire.
It’s just an example.
These type of deals are going to happen all around the league.
It’s going to be insane.
Now, that situation is an example of a good way to use the expansion draft.
A lot of teams are going to do just the opposite.
Many of them don’t even have eight skaters worth protecting.
Yet, naive GMs will pay Vegas to stay away from their trash.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are one team expected to do just that.
The rumor is that they’ll send a first round pick to Vegas, if the Golden Knights don’t take Josh Anderson or Jack Johnson.
The 24th overall pick that Columbus has is probably more valuable than either of those players.
I’m sure there will be even worse cases of this throughout the league.
One thing this expansion draft will do for certain is expose the good and bad GMs.
McPhee can not only take bribes to steer him toward players, he can also create bidding wars.
“Hey, I know we agreed on a third rounder not take your center, but this GM is going to give me a second rounder not to take his center, so now we need your guy again. Ante up.”
If McPhee does this expansion draft right, he could end up with more picks in a draft than we’ve ever seen before.
There are a few really good players available for the taking.
The no-brainer pick is Sami Vatanen from the Anaheim Ducks.
A talented 26 year old defenseman with all the offensive prowess in the world.
What is Anaheim going to pay Vegas to keep him safe?
The price is certainly going to be steep.
This is one of the most interesting times in the hockey world in recent memory.
Bribes, bidding wars, taking other people’s property.
I guess that’s why they call it Sin City.